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Ivanhoe

Sir Walter Scott

Chapters 28-31

Chapters 23-27

Chapters 32-36

Summary

After the tournament, the gravely wounded Ivanhoe was tended by Isaac and Rebecca; in fact, it was because Rebecca left the cover of her litter, giving it to Ivanhoe, that she caught Brian de Bois-Guilbert's eye. When Ivanhoe weakly regained consciousness, Rebecca promised him that she was a mistress of the healing arts and would restore his health in eight days. When the Saxons met the Jews in the forest before their capture, Rebecca and Isaac said that the litter carried a sick old man. In reality, it carried Ivanhoe, which is how the knight came to be a captive at Torquilstone.

In the castle, Rebecca continues to minister to Ivanhoe. As the fighting breaks out in the castle, Rebecca stands at the window and describes the battle to the feeble knight. Rebecca is appalled at the bloodshed and criticizes the institution of knighthood; Ivanhoe defends chivalry as a code of honor and morality. Ivanhoe swoons back into unconsciousness, and Rebecca wraps herself tightly in her veil, attempting to shield herself from her awakening love for Ivanhoe.

In the combat, Front-de-Boeuf leads the defenders of the castle against the yeomen of Locksley and the Black Knight. He receives a fatal wound, and as he slumps over in the castle, Ulrica jeers and taunts him, reminding him that he is guilty of his own father's murder. Madly, Ulrica sets fire to the castle, and the flames begin to spread through the hallways. The Black Knight has succeeded in capturing de Bracy; he valiantly charges into the burning castle to rescue Ivanhoe from the flames. The other prisoners manage to escape on their own; however, in the smoke, Rebecca is overtaken by de Bois-Guilbert, who makes off with her. Athelstane attempts to stop the Templar, who deals him a leveling blow on the head. As the mighty ramparts of Torquilstone are engulfed in flames, Ulrica sings an eerie death song. The fire at last swallows Front-de-Bouef, then swallows Ulrica.

Commentary

This chapter returns the focus of the novel to Ivanhoe, who has been entirely out of the spotlight since his victory at the tournament at Ashby. This section brings to a close the second structural phase of the novel, the phase revolving around the imprisonment at Torquilstone. The remaining chapters of the novel will focus on Rebecca's imprisonment at Templestowe, and on the circumstances of King Richard's return to England. Because it concludes a significant phase of the novel, the section ends in grand climactic style, with the battle raging around the burning castle of Torquilstone. Like the scene of combat at Ashby, it is not a section with a great deal of symbolic or thematic content; its emphasis, as with the novel as a whole, is squarely on action and excitement.

One of the most curious aspects of Ivanhoe, particularly in this middle phase of the novel, is just how unimportant the hero of the book is to most of the action. As Chapter 28 opens, Ivanhoe has been out of action with his wound for the last eleven chapters--more than a third of the book so far--and even before then he was known to the reader only in disguise. Thus far, his only heroic deed has been winning the tournament, and he did that not as Ivanhoe but as The Disinherited Knight. In reality, Ivanhoe is actually fairly unimportant to much of the novel's action; he is never really developed as a character, but simply treated as the highest flower of chivalry, and we almost never see events from his perspective. His love affair with Rowena is a secondary plot theme at best, and the most affecting thing about Ivanhoe is the fact that Rebecca loves him--and that is affecting because we care about Rebecca, not because we care about Ivanhoe.

Ivanhoe's importance, and the reason that he is the title character of the novel, is not so much in his heroic affect on the story (in that sense, King Richard is the real hero of the book), but rather on his symbolic role in representing the tensions between the Saxons and the Normans. Ivanhoe is a Saxon who has a close relationship with a Norman king; he suggests a different model of behavior from that proposed by the virulently anti-Norman Cedric. Scott's interest in history leads him to offer Ivanhoe as an example of the direction taken by English history after Richard's return from the Crusades, a way for the deeply conflicted population of England to unify--a unification that would eventually define the history of England. By the time Scott wrote his novel, there was nothing to distinguish Norman England from Saxon England.

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